A/N: I'm such a liar. I promised you a wedding and somehow I didn't keep my promise. Things just kept popping up and one thing led to another...
You know how it is. I plan, I get there and then all hell breaks loose. I had everything planned and laid out as I wanted it... then I got some new ideas and something else happened...Anyway, the wedding got pushed into the next one. I swear on something holy that it will be in the next one, I've got it all planned.
What do you think of Remus officiating the bonding ceremony? I did say that anyone who has a proper license can do it and Remus just clicked in my mind.
My mind is a really busy place at the moment, so please forgive me if I don't update until the middle of February.
On a very different side note; I just saw the most amazing play a few days back. It's called Coriolanus and has Tom Hiddleston as the lead. Damn that man, he's just too perfect. I just wanted to share my obsession.
Hugs and kisses for your reviews and support.
Ginny couldn't even finish her breakfast before Bill dragged her into the Headmistress' office. She saw her father and instantly knew that something was not right.
Ron, who too was sitting in McGonagall's office, looked around and met Ginny's eyes. Fred and Hermione were occupying the sofa.
"I will leave you alone with your children." Minerva told the redheaded man and swiftly walked away.
Arthur didn't know how to tell his kids about Molly. After receiving the letter, Arthur had felt as if someone had hit him with a Jelly-Legs Curse. Molly had died silently, no one had heard nor seen a thing. In a way, the man felt that it was better for Molly, rotting away in Azkaban was not a pleasant thought and Arthur didn't wish it for his ex-wife.
"Dad, has something happened?"
Arthur glanced around the room, taking in the worried faces that belonged to his children. "I'm afraid something has indeed happened."
"It's Mum, isn't it? Did she try to escape or something?" Ron said.
"Yesterday, I received an owl from Azkaban."
Ginny groaned. "Bloody hell, it's Mum. Please tell me she didn't somehow escape."
"It pains me to tell you this, but your mother is no longer with us. She was found yesterday morning."
"She's dead." Ron muttered, his voice filled with disbelief and something akin to sorrow.
Arthur gave a regretful nod and continued. "They think she passed away quietly, no one heard anything and they had seen her alive just a few hours before night time."
"Did she do it herself?" asked Ginny, holding back the tears.
"Nothing indicates a suicide. The Healer said that it is more likely that the illness she suffered from ate away the last piece of sanity she had left. It broke her mind completely and she simply gave up." Arthur explained. There was a some underlying guilt lacing his words. He couldn't help feeling responsible, even though he knew that Molly had made her own destiny.
Bill, who had been silent the entire time, asked, "When will the funeral take place? I don't mean to sound callous, but we can't delay with it."
"The wedding." Ginny said.
"Everything has been taken care of, the funeral will be held in three days time. I can't ask Harry to call off his wedding, Molly has caused enough hurt for Harry and Lucius, she shouldn't cause any more. I spoke with the Headmistress and she has allowed for you to take a few days off."
Ron sighed and looked out of the window. Ginny wiped her bleary eyes and choked out a sob when Bill pulled her into a tight hug. Hermione kissed Fred's cheek and rested her head on her husband's shoulder. The Weasley family was strong but in mourning. While no one approved of Molly's actions and they were all convinced that she deserved her sentence in Azkaban, she was still their mother and Arthur's wife of more than twenty years. She would be mourned, but as a mother and the woman she could have been without her illness.
"I wish I didn't have to go." Harry said as he fixed his robe in front of the mirror.
Molly's memorial service was only some hours away and Harry didn't want to attend. He grieved, but not for Molly. His redheaded brothers and sister had lost their mother and Harry felt grief for them, for their loss. He remembered the woman she had met as a child, yet everything that the witch had done afterwards made the teen feel bitterness and complete understanding over the fact that Molly had never loved him as one of her children. The sunny spring morning quickly turned into a soggy and grey one which added to the morbid mood.
Lucius was staying home and Harry was tremendously glad for that fact. Molly was gone and now a memory, but something in Harry wanted to keep Lucius far away from the woman, even if she wasn't alive any longer. The bad weather was another factor that made the blonde stay behind, the cold and damp air would do the man no favours.
"You will pay your respects and support your family during a difficult time. I will try to lift your mood when you get back."
Harry turned away from the mirror and wrapped his arms around the blonde wizard. It wasn't an easy task with the bulging stomach, but Harry was an expert after a few months of practice.
"I won't stay long."
Lucius gave a the teen a peck on the cheek, but Harry wanted more and caught the man's lips into a proper kiss, which involved quite a bit of tongue.
Breaking the lip-lock, Lucius told the younger man, "You'll be late."
"I don't mind." the teen answered back.
"It's against appropriate decorum to be late to a funeral, especially under these circumstances."
Harry sighed and buried his face into the crook of the blonde's neck. "I miss this, us being together like this. I miss the closeness. Everything is so hectic and we're both busy with our stuff. I'm studying for my N.E.W.T's and soon I will have to worry about graduation. You're planning the wedding and the twins will be here soon, we have to get everything ready for them."
"There is a lot to handle but I have no doubt that we will manage somehow," Lucius said, "Let's just take one step at a time and everything will work out in the end."
"I wish I could take things as easy as you." Harry sighed.
Lucius chuckled and said, "Do you think I'm not nervous about what lies ahead? Do you think I'm not anxious about giving birth to not only one, but two babies. A few short months from now, I will be in excruciating pain for hours, and that is not something I'm looking forward to. I'm as worried and tired as you, but I just happen to hide it better."
"Can't I stay home with you?" Harry asked hopefully.
Lucius ran a hand through Harry's messy mop of raven hair. "You don't have to go for Molly, but your family needs you."
"Damn you. Why do you always make sense?"
"It's a gift." Lucius hummed.
Harry grumbled. "Smug bastard."
The Prewitt family burial plot looked deserted and practically a wasteland. The headstones of Molly's brothers were hidden behind thick uncut grass and fallen twigs, dark green and brown moss covered the gravestones. Nobody had visited the gravesite for years, let alone kept it clean. Molly was to be buried next to her brothers and father, her name had been engraved into the new tombstone Arthur had ordered.
Both Minerva and Kingsley had come to pay their respects as well, standing on the side. Harry kept his distance. The werewolf understood Harry's reluctance, the woman had caused the teen a lot heartache and almost cost Harry his unborn children.
"When I first met her, I wondered whether my mum had been like her. She left a warm impression, maternal and caring. I was so sure that Molly loved me like one of her own kids." Harry said.
"We will never know the real Molly, the witch she could have been without her illness." Remus told Harry.
Ginny stood by Bill's right, the wizard's arm around her shoulders. Charlie and Percy looked reserved and sombre, each thinking about their mother and her demise. Everyone placed down their flowers, a few said some parting words and then it was done. The Weasley family was closing a chapter in their lives and the only thing for them to do was to move forward.
"I want to remember my mother not some crazy witch who harmed her own family. I want to remember her bedtime stories, the way she braided my hair when I was little and even the horrible jumpers she made us for Christmas. That was our mother, the one who took care of us and loved us."
Bill wrapped his arms around Ginny and said, "She will be remembered as such. As our mum."
"Am I an awful person for thinking that it's better this way, that it's better for her? For her to be dead rather than living out her days in a dingy little cell in Azkaban. Am I a bad daughter for being glad my mother is gone?"
Arthur took a hold on the girl's hand. "You're not a bad daughter for wanting your mother to be at peace. At least now we know that she's finally resting."
"This might sound clichéd, but she is in a better place now." Bill added.
Hermione walked closer to the trio and spoke quietly, "Fred and George went ahead already. Will you be staying longer? "
"No, we'll be right with you." Arthur told the witch.
The Burrow still held memories for all of them but for Harry, it was different. No matter how hard he tried to banish Molly from his mind, it was a poor attempt to forget something that was ingrained into Harry's memories. He hadn't told anyone about the nightmares. Sure, he had a lot of them and mostly about the war and Voldemort, but after the eventful engagement party the dreams included Molly. Seeing the purple jet of light hit the intended target made Harry's stomach churn. After waking from it, Harry always moved closer to Lucius and his hand would find its way to his stomach where the twins rested. He didn't know what he would have done had they lost their babies, frankly it was something that Harry couldn't even comprehend and he wasn't the one carrying them.
He was startled when someone's hand landed on his shoulder. Remus had a sympathetic look on his face. "I'm sure everyone will understand if you want go home."
"It's not that, though I do want to get back to Lucius. This, being here, it brings back memories. Mostly bad, because Molly managed to wipe away all good memories I had of this place." Harry said.
Remus looked around. "Arthur has already moved most of his things into River's End and Charlie has most likely moved in by now."
"Ron plans to look for a flat after graduation, he doesn't want to stay here for long. Too much baggage he said."
"I always wondered how you could move into Malfoy Manor after everything that happened there." Remus said, his tone curious and contemplating.
Harry had an easy answer. "Because my home is with Lucius. I admit that first I was intimidated by the Manor and everything that it meant, but being there and sharing it with Lucius made me forget the horrible experiences the three of us went through. Hermione got over her fear and even Ron doesn't mind being there, of course the Quidditch Pitch plays an important role, but the point is that both of them did it for me. I no longer see it as a cold, dreadful crypt, but a home that our kids will live in. It's the place where Lucius and I will share our life together, raise our children and grow old together. Once I figured that out, I felt at home."
"I'm proud of you, cub," the werewolf said with affection, "I know that James and Lily would be proud as well. You have been blessed with a generous heart and the ability to forgive. I have only known one other person with such compassion and capacity to love."
Harry quietly stated. "My mum."
Remus gave a nod. "She was unlike anyone I had ever met. She took me as I was, my furry problem included. There were times when I thought about ending my life, but she made me see why I was a fool to take the easy way out. I was just a teenager myself, the about the same age as you are now, when I tried to end my misery. Being a werewolf was something I could never accept and embrace, I hated the wolf more than anything. Your mother saved me by just looking me in the eye and telling me that I was worth so much more and that the wolf in me wasn't the only thing that defined me. She was so bloody understanding, I hated it for a while. I made a promise to her, I promised to always look after you. I failed you as a young child, Harry. I should have done something for you, but me being a werewolf would never have allowed me to raise you."
"You're here now, looking out for me as you promised my mum," said Harry, "You've been like a father to me ever since I got to know you better, I will never forget that."
Remus chuckled, "When Lily told James about her pregnancy, your dad just blinked and ended up unconscious on the floor. Lily dosed him with ice cold water and as soon as James came around and looked at Lily, he fainted again. Sirius was blue in the face from laughing too much. He couldn't even utter a single word when the realisation hit him. Once you were born and placed into his arms, James was by far the happiest man I had ever seen. He finally understood it when he had you in his arms."
"I can still remember the first time I laid eyes on Hogwarts, it's mindboggling to think how far I've come. The past eight years are the best and the worst of my life, I can't even describe how I feel when thinking back on those years."
"It's more unbelievable when I can still remember you in your nappies. Soon you will be changing the nappies of your own children."
Harry grinned and said, "Every now and then I think about what it would be like to just hold a small baby that I helped to create. The baby will be a part of me, only in a very tiny package."
"Lily always said that the sleepless nights were worth it because when she saw your peaceful face and curious eyes, she knew that you were the best thing that she could ever hope or want. I think every mother feels that way."
Slumping into the cushy armchair, Harry smiled. "Seeing Lucius happy is all I need to brighten up my day. Sometimes I catch him smiling when one of the twins kicks or when he thinks no one is around and talks to them in a very Malfoy-like way that still sounds adoring. I like to watch him when he's asleep, in a totally non-creepy way. He looks like an angel when he's asleep."
"I wouldn't know about that, cub." laughed Remus.
"Well, he does. His stunning even when he is angry. I can spend my entire day just watching him." Harry said. "Merlin, I sound like a crazed stalker."
"If it makes you feel any better, I like to watch Severus as well."
Harry hummed in agreement and pointed out, "He's a fascinating man."
"Immensely talented and dedicated, remarkably gifted and passionate about everything he does." the werewolf listed on.
"Looks like we snatched up some fine men for ourselves." Harry said with a wink.
With a snort, Remus said, "I don't know about you, but my charming partner seems to think that kissing is what horny teenagers do."
"I guess I lucked out then. I happen to be a horny teenager and Lucius is just randy all the time."
"Ah, the perks of being young." Remus said.
Harry didn't get the chance to say anything. Ginny stood by the door, trying to put on a good face. "Professor McGonagall is leaving, she asked for you, Harry."
"I'll be right there."
Remus waited until Ginny was out of sight and said. "She is taking it the hardest."
"I'll go and talk to McGonagall." Harry said, having lost some of his previously improved mood. Seeing Ginny's red and puffy eyes made Harry feel a bit guilty for not being more supportive and standing in the sidelines.
McGonagall was talking with Arthur when Harry spotted her. Walking over, Harry managed a weak smile.
"Ginny said you wanted to talk to me, Professor."
"How many times have I asked you to call me Minerva?"
Harry said sheepishly, "About a dozen. It's a hard habit to break."
"I wanted to speak to you about your N.E.W.T's. You've done well with your studies and I have spoken to all of your professors, they all agree that you are ready to start concentrating on your finals."
Harry looked relieved. "No more homework?"
"No more homework, just N.E.W.T's."
"Thank Merlin, I was beginning to have nightmares about writing essays."
Minerva smiled at the boy's thankful look. She asked, "How is Lucius?"
"Well, he's big and hungry," Harry laughed. There was no other way to describe the blonde's current predicament. "He's fine, a little anxious perhaps but that's a given. Other than that, everything is perfectly alright."
"That is good to hear. Albus still stammers every time he inquired about the two of you. The look on his face was simply priceless, still amuses me to no end." Minerva chuckled, a mischievous glint in her eyes.
Harry had seen the Pensieve with Lucius' memories of that particular episode. It still made him smirk.
"You can tell that old coot that we're doing exceptionally well. And he has to get used to calling me Potter-Malfoy."
"It will most certainly make him splutter even more." said the old witch.
"Harry, please come to bed."
The teen only hummed in response, vaguely aware of the time.
Suddenly the blonde was in front of Harry. For a pregnant wizard, Lucius moved like a flash. He snatched up the textbook that Harry had been devouring with his eyes. Green eyes looked up and Harry protested weakly, "I was almost done with the chapter."
"And I've been trying to get you to stop reading it for almost an hour. You're about to fall asleep where you stand."
"I'm not actually standing." Harry said with a smirk.
Lucius only glared harder, making the teen wince.
"It's nearly midnight, the twins are doing some sort of acrobatics and I have a sudden urge to rearrange furniture. I'm tired and sore. So instead of trying to be funny, move your arse into bed or I will have the elves make up a bed for you across the hallway."
The irritation was evident in the blonde's voice, but it was his expression that promised hell if Harry didn't start moving. There was something undeniably hot about the way Lucius stared into Harry's very soul.
Before Harry could apologise or beg for some kind of forgiveness, Lucius was walking away. The loud bang of the bathroom door making contact with the doorframe had Harry snap out of his thoughts.
The green-eyed teen sighed and made his way towards the en-suite. Softly knocking on the door, Harry said, "Lucius."
When nothing happened, Harry thought about knocking again but was stopped halfway when the door was yanked open. While the previously lethal expression was gone and replaced with a less furious one, Lucius still looked highly pissed off.
"Are you done?" was the first thing that slipped out of Harry's mouth. In hindsight, it was the dumbest thing for him to say.
"Am I done doing what? Done worrying about your health or done being concerned? Done acting up?"
Harry squeezed his eyes shut and sent up a prayer that when he opened his eyes everything would be back to normal, well relatively normal. He wasn't that lucky.
"I understand that your final exams are important, I've done them myself so I do know what you're up against. Nor am I trying to downplay your efforts," Lucius started, "but you need to understand that while they are important, they are not worth pushing yourself over the limits. You barely eat, barely sleep and the only time I've seen you relax is when you take one of your ten-minute naps. And maybe I'm being selfish for wanting a tiny bit of your time, but I get to be selfish because I've been lugging around two other people who are demanding as well. So no, I'm not done."
Harry simply stared at the blonde, not daring to say anything. But his sleep deprived mind kept his mouth running. "Actually I meant the bathroom. Done in the bathroom."
Lucius pinched the bridge of his nose and mentally counted to five. He was itching to reach for his wand but the blonde tried to remind himself that he couldn't harm Harry and he shouldn't want to harm him with a hex. Instead, he moved away from the door and said, "I'm all done."
Banging doors seemed to be a trend of the day. The bedroom door was next to suffer as the older man stalked out. Harry rubbed his eyes and thumped his head against the wall.
"Stupid Gryffindor. Keep your mouth shut, you may live longer." Harry muttered to himself.
The first thing Harry became aware of in the morning was the persistent ache in his lower back. He would have grinned at the thought of his arse being sore, but the circumstances were hardly pleasurable this time. With a groan, he turned on his stomach and buried his face into a pillow that wasn't his. It smelled clean and looked crisp, but Harry was used to the sweet smell of vanilla and a hint of something more fruity. His pillowcase, and every other pillow case since Lucius always hogged the covers and created pillow forts, smelled like the blonde. Harry loved to bury his nose into the long silky hair and just breathe in the most delicious scent that he could think of. Now, Harry got a taste of nothingness, just clean and sharp with no sweetness.
As he pushed himself up, the teen felt another region of his body start to ache. The bed in the guestroom was big and lush, but Harry was used to the mattress they had in the Master bedroom. It was hard yet also soft, springy but not too bouncy. It was perfect. This piece of fine furniture was just shite in Harry's opinion.
The night before, Harry had grabbed his pyjamas and ventured into the guestroom or the territory reserved for those who had angered their highly emotional and hormonal partners. Waking up alone and between cold sheets really didn't help Harry's mood that was more sour than Snape's potions.
Hauling his legs over the edge of the bed, the teen flexed his muscles and yawn. As he scratched his chest, Harry thought about his next move. He was hungry and even if his food made a habit of resurfacing, he still wanted to eat.
Finally, he emerged from the room and dragged his feet downstairs. Lucius was in the middle of lading his plate with various fruit when Harry shuffled into the room and pulled out a chair for himself. Andromeda, who had moved into the Manor, sat silently and watched her boys closely. One of them was acting moody, the snappish tone to his voice was cold enough to ice up the entire floor. The other, however, was reserved and looked quite sad.
"Alright you two," Andy said, "What's got your wands in a knot?"
"Harry here seems to think that studying himself to death is somehow a good way to go." Lucius said casually, popping a piece of an apple into his mouth.
Harry glowered. "I'm not studying myself to death. Frankly, I fail to see how I'm the one doing something wrong."
"Are you implying that I'm in the wrong?"
"Lucius, you're blowing this out of proportions. You were to one who almost blew a casket last night when I took too long to finish one bloody chapter in my Charm's textbook." Harry said.
The blonde clenched his jaw and Harry could see the signs of a looming storm which reflected in the man's cool eyes.
"Well, I apologise for being concerned. I don't fancy being a single parent, but I will take my worry somewhere else. You can stay across the corridor, I'll have one of the elves move your things." Lucius told the teen with a voice so cold that the temperature in the room plummeted.
Andy buried her face into her delicate hand and sighed. She was not taking sides, but even the witch was concerned about Harry. Dark circles under his eyes, the gauntness of his cheeks and the overall look of being drained had the Healer more than just a little alert. She could understand why Lucius was acting the way he was.
With nothing more to add, Lucius stalked away, his shoulders set into a rigid stance. Harry kept his eyes on his plate and pursed his lips.
"That went well."
Andromeda was torn between going after Lucius and staying with Harry. The teen solved her dilemma as he said, "You should go and check on him. I think this qualifies as a stressful situation."
The witch touched Harry's hand and gave it a squeeze before following the blonde. Forcing toast down his throat, Harry felt numb. Fighting with Lucius was like cutting off one his own limbs, it hurt both physically and emotionally. The prospect of spending his nights in the guestroom with the shoddy mattress, scentless pillows and with no Lucius to keep him warm made Harry want to bang his head against the solid table.
Andromeda found Lucius in his study, the Quill making quick and sharp slashes against the parchment. He looked completely composed but Andy knew that it was thunder and lighting inside.
"And to think that I want to marry that irresponsible, reckless Gryffindor with so sense whatsoever. You know I'm right, don't you?"
Andromeda sighed. "You're right about Harry's deteriorating health. Everything else that needs to be sorted between you two is your personal matter."
"He looks like death warmed over." Lucius said.
Andy again had to agree. "What Harry needs is a long and relaxing vacation, not N.E.W.T's and everything else that has piled on top of his already existing workload. An intervention is needed."
"I'm too irritated to deal with him at the moment. His dismissing behaviour just added to the reasons I'm cross with him," Lucius said, looking up from his parchment. "If he wants to act like a child then so be it. Dealing with Harry's careless attitude is not something I need right now."
"That is just your anger talking. Which, may I remind you, is not good for those two little ones that pick up your mood." said Andy. "Let me check your blood pressure."
With a tired sigh, Lucius leaned back in his chair and said. "I don't understand why he has to push himself so far. I can still remember my final exams and I don't recall being this hard on myself."
"That may be the case, but you didn't have to worry about a wedding, a heavily pregnant fiancé and the general public who won't give you a break. It is a lot to take it and digest, adding stressful exams won't make it any easier. Plus, Harry is a stubborn one. He keeps pushing himself because he believes that he has everything under control. In truth, it is spiralling out of control.
When a soft kick landed near the blonde's ribs, Lucius said. "I think you have a little ally."
"Those two can also pick up Harry's magic, which can sometimes be an extension of our general mood or feelings."
"I might sound like a deprived witch, but I need him as well. I need him to assure me that everything is going to be fine, that I won't fail as a parent the second time around. I need Harry to take care of me."
Andromeda smiled and stated, "That doesn't sound deprived, it's how you feel. It's natural to want comfort, assurance and even a hug every once in a while. When I was pregnant with Dora, all I wanted was my husband to hold me and tell me nice things I needed to hear. You want Harry to do the same."
"He can't even take care of himself."
"Banishing him to the guestroom won't bring you a miracle. Harry needs a firm hand, and I plan to be that hand. I will look him over even if I have to tie him to the bed." Andromeda told the blonde, her Healer instincts mixing with the ones that belonged to a mother.
After a walk in the gardens, Harry felt a bit better. Seeing Andromeda made Harry stop in a halt.
"Young man, you will come with me now. I have been very lenient with you so far, but I won't be for long. You won't argue."
Harry tried to reason. "I feel fine."
"Harry James, don't you dare lie to me. You are not too old for a good spank over my knee. Now, get inside and stop being a bloody Gryffindor."
The teen had never heard Andy sound so angry before. Truthfully, he hated to be the one Andromeda was angry at.
The witch held up her hand. "Don't 'Andy' me, Harry James. Inside or I will give you a nice pair of stripy trousers."(*)
With a cowering expression, the dark-haired teen marched right past the witch and into the Manor. The drawing room was the nearest place with a sofa for Harry to lie down on. Instructing the teen to do just that, Andromeda took our her wand. She hadn't even started working when Harry paled. His hand flew to his mouth, making the witch conjure up a bucket. The bitter bile made Harry's throat scratchy, his stomach ached and the stabbing sensation threatened to tear a hole into his abdomen.
"Do you still think we're overreacting?" Andy asked with a worried expression.
Harry didn't say anything, just closed his eyes and tried to think the pain away. Andromeda muttered spell after spell, all of them washing over the teen's form. When the incantations stopped, Harry snapped his eyes open and met the witch's gaze.
"Have you been vomiting often? Be honest, Harry."
"I... I guess, I mean food doesn't really want to stay down sometimes. Sometimes it's just cramp-like pains"
Andy asked. "Anything else you would like to list as unusual?"
"I'm tired most of the time, I can hardly focus." Harry added grimly.
" I think I have found the problem."
With a half-desperate, half-terrified tone, Harry ranted, "I'm pregnant, aren't I."
Andy stared at Harry and couldn't decide whether to laugh or be concerned. "Why on earth would you think that, Harry?"
"It all fits. The vomiting and the tiredness. I know this stuff, it's everything Lucius went through in the beginning."
Andromeda took the teen's shaking hand and said. "Harry, you are not pregnant."
With a light chuckle, the woman explained. "No, you are definitely not expecting a child. Did you have any reason to believe you were?"
Harry blushed. "Not really, I mean we haven't...It's rather difficult, you know. I mentioned my nausea and fatigue to Severus and he asked me if there was a chance I was pregnant. It scared me and I tried to ignore it."
"You should have asked me to check you over sooner. Is that why you ignored it, because you were afraid to find out?"
Harry nodded. "I have enough on my plate with Lucius. I thought about two pregnant wizards under the same roof and my mind just shut down, I couldn't really picture it. I didn't want to picture it."
"Had you seen me sooner, I would have given you better news."
"What's wrong with me? I'm not actually dying, am I? Lucius will have me resurrected just so he could kill me himself."
Andy shook her head and said, "Nothing quite so serious, but it is a serious matter nonetheless. There is a hole in your stomach, and I mean that quite literally. I believe Muggles call it a stomach ulcer. Ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of the stomach."
"An ulcer," Harry muttered. "That's not really a big deal, is it?"
"Make no mistake, it is a big deal. If this is left untreated, it can cause internal bleeding. It can eat a hole through the wall of your stomach and cause serious infections that might lead to blood poisoning. There is also a chance that it will create scar tissue that can block your intestines, leaving you unable to eat properly."
Harry's face was colourless, it had finally hit him. "Did I do this to myself? By working myself into a stupor."
"It's a common disbelief that stress is the cause, though it might add to your condition. Have you been taking any potions?"
The look on Harry's face was filled with guilt. He had done this to himself after all, by drinking energizing potions.
"I...um, I was a tiny bit hooked on Vitamix Potion for a while. I didn't think it would cause me any harm, I stopped taking it when Severus said that I could get addicted." Harry told the witch. "I was just so exhausted and I couldn't keep up with my homework and the assignment pile on my desk just kept growing."
"I won't scold you for using it as a means to regain your energy. However, it is the reason you have a very nasty ulcer causing you grief. Potions can easily cause stomach problems, that is why it is not recommended to consume potions daily. Even a simple Headache Potion or a Hangover Potion can cause the acid level in your stomach to rise. I think the best way to cure your ulcer is by using Muggle medicine. You will also need a new diet to help you heal and I'm afraid coffee will not make the cut."
Harry took everything in. He said, "I feel so stupid right now. I did this to myself."
"Harry, no one can blame you for giving your all. You exhausted yourself and the stress was a contributing factor why you were feeling particularly tired and in need of something to get you up and running again. We can still fix this, it won't kill you."
"I think I need to talk to Lucius. I was being unfair and I know I disregarded is concern, but I couldn't deal with it. I'm not used to this, having people worry about me. I've come to understand that I have people who care about me, but it still takes time. When I was six or seven, I broke my ankle. No one cared. I cried myself to sleep at nights because the pain was intolerable. My ankle was swollen and I couldn't even touch it without making it hurt again. By the time Petunia had enough of my crying and took me to the hospital, the bone had already started healing wrong and it was painful to stand on my left foot. It bothered me even when I started Hogwarts, but Madam Pomfrey healed it. It hurt like hell, but it's healed now."
Andy caressed the teen's cheek and said softly, "What your relatives did was awful, but the people around you now take your wellbeing very seriously. Lucius only wanted to help you understand that you need a break. All three of them need you to be healthy and strong, you have a responsibility to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family."
"I want to be there for my children and I can't be if I put myself into an early grave." Harry conceded.
"I think Lucius hasn't told the elves to move your things yet, perhaps now is the time to solve the issues you have lingering over your heads. Just tell him everything you told me and he will understand. He loves you too much to allow this to drive a wedge between you, just be patient and honest."
A while later, Harry readied himself outside the blonde's study. He knocked a few times and pushed the door open.
Lucius was still busy with getting his business in order, the concentrated look on his face a dead giveaway on how much effort he put into his work. He didn't lift his eyes when Harry walked inside, didn't acknowledge the teen in any way.
Harry knew he was being ignored, but he couldn't help the little spark of frustration. But since he knew that he was the one doing the grovelling, Harry smothered that spark. He moved behind the man and reached out his hand so it would slid down Lucius' arm. Placing a soft kiss on the blonde's cheek, Harry said, "Don't ignore me, Lucius."
"Like you ignored me." the blonde hummed, though there was nothing accusing or malicious in his tone.
"I didn't mean to shut you out and I'm sorry for pushing you away when you wanted to help me see what an idiot I've been. I shouldn't have taken your worry so lightly, I know you only want the best for me."
Lucius asked, "Is that your apology?"
"Is it working?"
Putting down his Quill, Lucius turned to face Harry. "Sometimes it's best to stop up while you're ahead, Harry. In this case, shutting up while your ahead."
The teen chuckled and said, "I really did mean what I said. I know what I did wrong and I'm trying to fix it."
"And what is it you think you did wrong?"
"Besides being a irresponsible prat, you mean? I know I was being unfair when I blew up on you and dismissed your concern. I was an insensitive idiot last night, but I really didn't know what my poor excuse of a brain was trying to accomplish. I shouldn't have goaded you and instead I should have listened to you, because you were right. I have been neglecting my health and pushing the limits of what I am capable of. I'm falling apart and I hadn't even noticed how I had been neglecting you. You don't deserve to suffer because I'm too stubborn to give in when I should."
Lucius offered Harry a small smile as he asked, "What am I going to do with you, love?"
"Hopefully forgive me and let me stay in our bed. I really hate being away from you." Harry told the older wizard.
Lucius stood and took Harry's hand. Leading them away from the study, Lucius asked, "Did Andy check you over?"
"She all but pinned me to the sofa, threatened to spank me if I didn't follow her orders. She is a very scary witch."
"How serious is it?" Lucius asked.
Harry sighed, he didn't know where to start. "Well, turns out I have a stomach ulcer. Andy painted a rather gruesome picture but she's optimistic and with the right treatment I can heal completely. It's my own fault, I shouldn't have taken the stimulating potions. And I should have gone to Andy sooner, when all my health problems started."
"I'm glad it's not something more serious. I would have spanked you had it been something untreatable." Lucius reprimanded the teen.
"In that case, it would have been a very pleasurable punishment," Harry said with a smirk, "I think that defies the whole point of spanking. You know I'd get off on it when you're the one doing the spanking."
As they reached the garden, Harry tightened his hold on the blonde's hand and felt himself gravitate closer. They had agreed on having the bonding ceremony on the Manor grounds, in the little paradise-like garden that was connected to the terrace. Harry could already picture it in his mind.
"You've gone quiet on me."
The teen hummed. "I was just thinking about the ceremony. I think we chose the perfect place for it."
"My mother favoured it as well," Lucius said. "She wrote about it in her journal. You see those Magnolia trees over there?"
"It was her special project, her sanctuary in the tranquillity of this small patch of flowers and trees."
The Magnolia trees were almost in full bloom, various shades of pink and white surrounded the edges of the private heaven. The image was breathtakingly beautiful. Harry envisioned two little children playing in the garden, running around and playing tag or just rolling around in the grass while laughing and giggling.
"Do you think your mother would have liked me?"
Lucius was surprised to hear such a question from Harry. But he had an honest answer for the teen. "I think she would have loved you. You are very easy to love."
"You're hardly unbiased," Harry chuckled. "We're getting married in her spectacular garden, I want her to approve."
"I have come to know my mother through her diary, learned about who she was. Blood purity mattered little to her and in her opinion an impure heart was a far greater disgrace than impure blood. She was quite different from my father who believed in pure-blood supremacy and duty, I can only just understand how their union could survive for so many years. My father would have despised you, but it hardly matters because I despised him, a part of me still does."
Harry said, "I think my mum would have hated you at first, but then she would have seen the man you really are underneath all those layers. She would have seen everything I see in you."
"And your father?"
"I have a feeling mum wore the pants in that household. Both she and Remus would have flattened him."
Sitting down on the elegantly carved bench below the blossoming trees, Harry blurted out, "I thought I was pregnant."
The teen immediately explained. "I'm not, I just suspected that I might be. I started having similar symptoms and well...I blame Severus, he planted the idea in my head. I tried to ignore everything because I was a bit scared to find out. It makes little sense but I guess I was just terrified to know."
Lucius started laughing. "Now that would have been quite the story to tell the children."
"I fail to see the humour." Harry said, eyeing the blonde.
"Would you rather I cried? Or perhaps 'blown a casket'?"
Harry hid a smile and said, "You look very hot when you're angry. Definitely a turn on."
"Even when it gets you a cold bed across the corridor?"
"That, I admit, was not very enjoyable. I hated the bed and I definitely hated the pillows, they smelled too clean. I'm used to burying my nose into my pillow that smells of you. I even missed the occasional kicks to my ribs."
Lucius told the teen, "The twins could sense that you weren't close to them."
"Did they keep you up at night?" Harry was instantly worried and fussed over the man.
"They were quite restless but quietened down after a while," Lucius said and placed Harry's hand on one side of the swollen bump, "You son missed you, but he seems to follow orders better than his sister. Stopped the minute I threatened to ground him until he is of age."
Moving the teen's hand over to the other side, Lucius continued, "You daughter here seems to be as stubborn as you. But she is more spoiled because she settled down when I promised to get her a pony."
"A Malfoy then." Harry snorted. "How do you know which is which?"
"Intuition." Lucius said.
"What do you think of Elisabeth? As a name for our daughter. It's a way to honour both of our mothers. Maybe a middle name?"
The blonde mulled over Harry's words and said, "It's a lovely way to remember two incredible women."
"I know that it's a Black tradition to name children after constellations. I thought maybe it would be too much."
Lucius said, "It is a Black family tradition but I was the one to name Draco. In truth, it has little to do with the Black family, I just happen to find dragons fascinating. He also screeched like one when he was only hours old."
"I sort of wrote down a few names that go together with Draco's, I just wasn't sure whether you would approve," Harry rambled, "But since you named Draco and not Narcissa and Sirius...Never mind, it's not important."
Urging Harry to finish his thought, Lucius said, "It is important, Harry."
"Sirius and Andy are both Blacks, the decent ones in that family, and I guess a part of me wants to follow the tradition for their sake. Plus, it would also be similar to their big brother. Am I making any sense?"
"You make perfect sense. And we'll look through the names you picked out."
Harry seemed to beam at the suggestion and added. "Let's go back inside, it's a bit chilly in the shade."
As the dark-haired wizard stood and took a some steps towards the path, he heard Lucius clear his throat. Glancing back at the man, Harry was met with a raised brow.
"As much as I loathe to admit it, I do need your help to get up. Otherwise, it might take a while."
Weeks went by and May rolled in, along with it came the exams. Causing headache, jitters and nerve-racking strain as you started to crack under the pressure. The whole of Hogwarts was calm, as if nothing was amiss, but the Seventh and Eight Years were all scattered about, nerves tighter than a bowstring and ready to snap any minute. Of course there were those who enjoyed that particular period during their school year, students like Hermione for example. Frankly, she made up the entire category and was the only student who loved exams. Her study group with Draco and Daphne Greengrass was successfully converting the two Slytherins into her way of thinking. Study, study, study...
Defence Against the Dark Arts was up first. Severus stood in front of the class with a hawk-like expression, his dark onyx eyes drilling holes into the students who looked fidgety enough without the man's gaze upon them. Harry sat among his year mates, feeling oddly content and anxious at the same time. Severus looked around the room and drawled, "Now, if everyone is done admiring Mr Potter, I suggest you keep your eyes in front of you."
The Ministry official from the Department of Education stood near the front, openly smirking as the Professor scolded his students. The next two hours were spent in silence, only the scratching of their Quills could be heard.
When the students started piling out of the room, sighs of relief and groans of frustration followed. For some, it was the first exam of the day and for others like Harry, it was just a nice morning with a bit of DADA.
"The practical exam is tomorrow." Hermione said. "I hope it's not too hard."
"You are kidding, right? We fought in a bloody war, I reckon that counts for practical experience." Ron snorted.
Hermione ignored the boy and turned to Harry. " Are you feeling better?"
"I feel fine."
"You're sticking to your diet as you should? Not overdoing it, because if you are, I swear I will start mothering you even more." Hermione said.
"I swear, Hermione, I'm taking care of myself. I have Andy constantly reminding me of everything that I have to do," Harry explained, "Lucius makes a habit of bullying me into eating healthier by glaring at me. I'm well aware of the fact that I have to watch what I eat and cut down on my workload."
Hermione said with a proud smile. "Good, that's really good. I'm glad you're taking this seriously. Now, let's talk business. Is everything set for next week?"
"What's next week?" Ron asked.
"Ginny and I are planning a baby shower."
The look on the redhead's face was worth capturing. With a disbelieving face, Ron asked, "Are you completely mental?"
"No, not that I know of." Hermione said. "I don't see why throwing Lucius a baby shower is a side effect of me being mental."
Harry interrupted. "Yes, I've made arrangements. That gives you more or less four hours to get everything ready."
Seamus and Blaise rounded the corner, the dark-skinned teenager spotting Harry first. "Harry Potter in the flesh."
"The great Saviour has come down to mingle with the rest of us mortals." Seamus added with a mocking jest.
"Those two together are the worst thing that could have happened and unfortunately did." Ron said.
Blaise laughed. " Come on, Ronniekins, don't be such a killjoy."
"Aren't you supposed to annoy someone else?" asked Ron.
"I know it's just your way of expressing how much you love me." quipped Zabini.
Harry missed being with his friends and sharing laughter, but the ache he felt when he was away from Lucius was overriding every other sense. Sure, having a few laughs with his mates was a great idea, but thinking about his future husband had him disregarding everything else.
"I have Arithmancy in an hour and I want to go over my notes one more time. I'll see you tomorrow, Harry." Hermione said and kissed Harry's cheek.
"She genuinely likes exams." Blaise said with wonder etched to his tone.
Seamus threw his arm around the teen's shoulder and said, "That's Hermione for you, she's always been like that."
"And we love her for it." Ron added.
"Are we absolutely sure that this is something we should do?"
Ron was the only one out of the group that didn't really see how throwing Lucius Malfoy a baby shower would be a good idea. The man still scared him a bit to be honest.
Hermione and Ginny had worked hard to pick the perfect day and the perfect gifts, everything had to be perfect altogether.
Harry was vaguely aware of what was going on but he wasn't about to ask for details and just went along with everything either Ginny or Hermione told him. The teen had been given the task of getting Lucius out of the Manor so that everything could be set up.
Hermione was just giving the room some finishing touches when Ron spoke.
"Honestly, Ron...We might start thinking that you're afraid of Lucius."
Ginny, who was arranging flowers, added, "Every expecting mother deserves a baby shower."
Draco sauntered into the decorated sunroom and said, "Is everything ready?"
"You could help us, you know." Hermione said. "Walking around with your hands in your pockets is hardly helpful."
Ginny smirked and handed Draco a vase with pink and white lilies. "Be a good boy and put them on the small table near the window."
"Aren't we a few people short? Most of the redheads are missing." Draco pointed out.
"Unfortunately, Arthur and Percy can't make it. They should be in Berlin by now, a delegation was sent to improve the relations between the two Ministries and Kingsley wanted Mr Weasley and Percy to go as well. Charlie and George are coming, though I have no idea when. Luna and Neville will arrive with Remus."
"Andy is upstairs in the nursery." Ginny said.
Draco looked around and said, "What do you want me to do then?"
The other witch stated with a huff. "Do you have any idea what I had to do to even get permission from Professor McGonagall? We are still students and she can't just let us do as we please. I put a lot of effort into getting her to agree to this, so you better be grateful, Draco Malfoy. Start moving those armchairs."
The blonde held back a snicker but didn't say anything, instead he drew out his wand and went to help Ginny with the furniture.
"She's taking this very seriously."
Ginny whispered back, "Of course she is. Harry is our brother and your little brother and sister will make us aunts. She is also gaga over babies and pregnant people, so indulge her and help out."
"Do you think my father will hex someone or cry?" the blonde asked with amusement.
"I think I'll go with hexing someone while bursting out in tears. Harry did say that he keeps a few extra chocolate bars around, in case he needs a quick way to distract Lucius," the redhead girl said. "That's actually sort of sweet. Harry's main purpose in this life is to make your father happy. Everything else can go to shit, but Harry will never put anything or anyone else above Lucius."
Draco hummed in agreement. "They keep defying the odds. No matter what people say, they won't let that stop them. I should have tried to get them together sooner, maybe Harry would have worked his magic on my father and things would have turned out differently."
"Yes, seducing an underage wizard will definitely not get you a ticket to Azkaban." Ginny snorted.
Hermione's voice called out. "Are you two done chatting? Because if you are, there are sofas that need lifting."
Draco sneered mildly with distaste. "We have elves for that."
The witch in question answered back. "I'll turn you into an house-elf. Now, less talking and more helping."
Ginny said with low voice, "This is Hermione we're speaking to. She would rather do everything herself than use an house-elf."
Meanwhile, Ron had wondered away from Hermione and the manual labour squad. The nursery was connected to the Master bedroom, forcing Ron to take a step into the couple's bedroom. He was blown away at the sight of the huge and luxurious room. It looked like it belonged to royalty, but it was no surprise for Ron because it belonged to a Malfoy. But there was a hint of Harry in the room, mainly his Quidditch magazines that were on the bedside table and a pair of trainers on the floor. A huge brown teddy bear was lounging in the middle of the bed.
As Ron peeked into the nursery, he had to look around for a few minutes just to take it all in. The murals were striking, animated and seeping magic. Wild landscapes, blue skies and crystal clear lakes dominated one side, whilst the opposite wall was featured different animals. Near the edge of the forest stood a majestic stag and next to him was a doe, lighter in colour and size. The pair stood close and Ron recognized Lily and James, Harry had told him about his parents' Patronus. Not far from them was a big black dog that reminded the redhead one particular night in the Shrieking Shack. There was no doubt in Ron's mind that it was Sirius. A white and fluffy fox caught the teen's eye. He had no idea who it represented. His was brought out of his daze when he heard Andromeda say, "It's Lucius' mother. Her Animagus form was a white Arctic fox."
Ron stared at the mural and said, "It's really something."
"Indeed it is. In fact, Draco was a bit jealous when he saw the finished room." Andy chuckled.
"Hermione is almost done with the downstairs decorations."
Andromeda looked around the room and said, "Everything is settled in the nursery as well. Now we just wait for the parents to be."
"Darling, while I do appreciate fresh air, I didn't quite intend to spend the entire day outside. I'm getting a tad bit tired since I'm the one doing the heavy lifting here."
Harry cast a Tempus to check the time. Hermione has said sometime around two and it was already five past.
"Home it is then." Harry said.
The twins had grown accustomed to Side-Along Apparation a while back already so the journey from the quiet end of Diagon back to the Manor was a smooth one. Unfortunately for Harry, his ability to cope with the nauseous feeling after was still present.
"I feel like a bath." Lucius said as he vanished his outer robe. "Care to join me?"
"That sounds lovely but we have to postpone because I have a bit of a surprise for you. But you can't hex me because I love, just remember that." Harry explained and tugged the blonde towards the sitting room.
Lucius said sceptically, "Harry, you know I detest surprises. Particularly those you don't warn me ahead about."
Harry dragged the blonde into the sitting room where they were met by everyone.
"What's going on here?" Lucius asked Harry, trying to maintain a neutral face.
Harry leaned closer as he said in a low voice. "It's a baby shower, with gifts and lots of food. Hermione and Ginny worked really hard, so please be nice about it."
Hermione was the brave one to step forward and said, "Surprise. I hope you're not very upset with us, it's a tradition and we thought that you deserved one. After all, you have to do most of the work, so why not treat yourself with a bit of fun."
Lucius threw Harry a look before saying to Hermione. "Thank you, it's most thoughtful of you. There will be hell to pay, I assure, but Harry will suffer the consequences because he knows I hate surprises."
"I'll happily subject myself to it." Harry told the man. "But until that happens, you get to enjoy it."
Andy came over and took Lucius by his arm, leading him over to the cushy armchair. Before the man could protest, Ginny thrust a plate with some kind of pastry into the blonde's hands and said, "A peace offering."
"Contrary to popular belief, I do appreciate your generous gesture. I won't bite, Ms Weasley."
"It's Ginny, we've been over this before." the girl said.
Lucius relaxed and the tension in his shoulders faded away. "Like I told Mrs Weasley, it is a lovely thought. I do feel a little unappreciated."
Andy clapped her hands together to get everyone's attention. She stated, "I propose we get this baby shower going. Since it is a tradition to celebrate the upcoming birth of a child as well as a way to give credit to the mother, I see no reason to delay the fun parts."
"Which include gifts and more of the mouth-watering pie Hermione's mum baked." Tonks added.
Lucius took a bite from said pie and hummed around the fork. Hermione beamed, but Harry's mind was assaulted with far more inappropriate thoughts.
"This is heavenly."
"I'll be sure to pass it on to my mum," Hermione said. "And seeing as we are settled, I have another little gift from my mother."
The girl handed the blonde two soft-looking blankets, one a creamy pastel-colour and the other a darker tone of plum. Hermione explained, her voice a bit shaky. "They're baby blankets that my mother made for the twins. As soon as she heard that there were two, she started knitting and wouldn't stop until she herself had to deliver a child."
"These are beautiful."
Hermione blushed. "Grandmothers usually do these kinds of thing for their grandbabies and Andy is more skilled in needlepoint...Anyway, I hope it's alright that I had my mother make them."
"You are a very thoughtful and kind young woman, Mrs Weasley. Please tell your mother that as well." Lucius said, a genuine smile on his face.
Harry, who had walked to the blonde's side, touched the soft wool and said, "Can your mum make me one of those blanket?"
"Perhaps when we're throwing you a baby shower." Hermione smirked.
Onesies, bibs, tiny hats and boots and other various gifts were given. The Weasley boys all pitched in and together they got the twins a toys, both Muggle and magical. The skilfully crafted rocking horse made of dark wood was from Arthur. Tonks got her uncle a book that contained the knowhow on everything to do with newborns. Luna had brought an odd-looking but beautiful baby mobile that had Thestrals flying in a circular pattern. Neville had gifted another, similar to Luna's yet his had owls instead of the winged horses. Remus had stocked up the blonde's secret pantry with Muggle sweets that Lucius loved but denied even liking.
In the middle of the gift giving, Draco practically stormed in with Severus in tow, the latter stalking in with no rush.
"I thought we were missing a few people." Andy commented.
"I had to pick up my gift." Draco defended himself.
He gave his father a brief hug and handed him a medium sized box. Harry leaned closer to see as Lucius opened it. Inside were to two tiny bracelets, both delicate and stunning, with a small ruby fixed in the middle.
Draco clarified. "They're charmed bracelets, one for my sister and the other for my brother. Each one has a protection charm and once you name them, it will appear on the bracelet. The ruby is for their birthstone, hopefully they do plan to come on time."
Harry was still enthralled by the little trinkets when Lucius spoke, "Draco... I don't know what to say."
"They're really beautiful and the charms are very practical. Thank you." said Harry.
Lucius was still short of words so instead he pulled Draco closer for an embrace. When the elder blonde had difficulty letting the younger one go, Harry wrapped his arm around Lucius and pulled him away. Draco made a quick escape and took a few steps back, but not before Harry noticed the slight wet sheen to his eyes. Everybody sort of expected Lucius to cry so no one paid it any mind when Harry wiped away a few tears that slid down the man's cheek.
Severus was not a man of sentiment and nonsense, so he had a very useful present. Presenting the blonde with a small crate, Severus said. "Rich snob that you are, I know you rarely buy this sort of products in Diagon. So I took the liberty of making them. If you enlarge the box you will find everything you need for the little brats, bath products and such."
Harry said with a chuckle. "I do hope these smell better than your usual potions."
"Don't be cheeky. Severus is responsible for the lovely smell on your pillows. I have never used anything but the best and Severus makes the best there is." Lucius told the teen. "Thanks to him, our children won't have your bird nest hair."
"I thought you liked my bird nest?"
Lucius ran his fingers to the teen's dark locks and said, "They're excellent for a tight grip. Has you purring every time."
Severus promptly turned and went over where Remus was chatting with Andy when Harry melted into a kiss with the blonde. Everyone pointedly looked elsewhere or engaged themselves with something. No one minded the oblivious couple giving them a glimpse of their affection but no one wanted to rudely stare either. Andy coughed discreetly when the teen let out a moan and started sliding his hands under the blonde's shirt. Lips red and slightly swollen, Harry focused his attention back on the matter at hand and grinned when Andy sent him a understanding smile. Making himself comfortable on the armrest of the wing chair, the green-eyed wizard nestled closer to Lucius and asked, "Are you still going to make me pay for this?"
"I'm not quite that heartless to tell your friends that I would rather soak in a relaxing bath that sit here. They put a lot of work into organising this shower and it is nice to be pampered."
"I have two N.E.W.T's and then it's all done with, I'll only have eyes for you," Harry said, "One week and you can have me all to yourself."
"I've been wearing a tie for eight years, but I still can't tie it so it wouldn't look stupid."
Lucius' skilful fingers took hold of the tie and pulled the teen closer.
"How did you manage it in school? Was it the handiwork of the former Ms Granger?"
"'Honestly, Harry, you should be able to do it yourself by now'. That's what she always said."
With a few expert moves, Lucius had finished making the most perfect Windsor knot Harry had ever seen. Turning back towards the mirror, the teen straightened his school robes. Black in colour but trimmed with burgundy red.
"Don't we look dashing." the teen commented.
The blonde looked every inch of the pure-blood elite he was or at least used to be before Harry. The teen's sudden urge to run his fingers through the silk like strands was almost overpowering.
Draco was waiting in the foyer with Bill, the latter undressing the blonde teen with his eyes. When the blonde saw his father and Harry, he asked, "What took you two so long?"
"Oh, you know... pre-graduation shagging." Harry casually said with a smirk.
"Very funny, Scarhead. Since I plan to graduate today, I suggest we get going." Draco said, ignoring the dark-haired teen's jab.
The Great Hall served as the auditorium and all the tables and benches were gone, replaced with seats for family and friends. All the professors sat behind the Head Table and the Headmistress stood behind the stand on the elevated podium. The Sorting Hat was placed on the stool as it was tradition. The graduating Seventh Years were on one side of hall, while the students who had been appointed as the Eight Years sat across from the rest of the graduating students.
The ceremony hadn't started yet so Harry decided to take one last look around the castle. It had been his first real home and he had missed it. He knew that he would visit and maybe walk those corridors again when his children started Hogwarts. Every classroom, every portrait and even the most remote corners held memories for Harry.
He found himself walking up the spiralled staircase that led on top of the Astronomy Tower. The magnificent view was shadowed by memories of the past, mostly seeing Dumbledore die. As he rounded the end of the stairs, he saw Draco, standing near the ledge and looking into the distance.
Harry walked next to the blonde, staying silent. Draco glanced at Harry for a moment and said as he turned his eyes back on the lake, "If Severus hadn't arrived when he did, I would have killed him."
"But you didn't, so there's no point in 'what ifs'."
"We wouldn't be here talking had I been the one to cast the Killing Curse." Draco pointed out.
Harry mused. "I guess we'll never know. But I chose to help you and your father, I chose to give you a second chance and I haven't regretted my decision. I sincerely believe that I never will. I have a wonderful family, which also includes you, I'm just sorry we didn't stop the childish nonsense sooner."
"It never ceases to amaze me; the fact that we, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, are having a parental moment. How many nearly nineteen year olds can say that they have a stepdad who's actually younger than them."
"Well, I didn't say we're a perfect family," Harry chuckled, "but it's everything I have ever wanted my family to be. We got the house and the children, all we need now is a dog."
The blonde wizard said, "I think Father is a cat person. Dogs are too much work. They drool and slobber all over you, they need to be walked and dogs want to play, which sounds exhausting. Dogs are annoying."
"I take it you're not an animal lover."
Draco shrugged. "I like rabbits."
"Who knew that the Prince of Slytherin has a weak spot for little fluffy hairballs." the green-eyed teen said mockingly.
"That's rich coming from you. You're more like a Hufflepuff , I think you would have fit right in."
Harry laughed and clapped the other wizard on the back, saying, "Come on, let's go do something shocking. Like hug in the middle of the Great Hall."
"They'll be talking about it for years. Former archenemies gone soft on each other."
Minerva cleared her throat and began her speech. "Graduation is always a cause for celebration but it's also a sad time, for both the students and professors."
Ron snorted in his seat next to Harry and whispered, "I bet Professor Snape will uncork the champagne as soon we're done here."
"I think he actually likes us now, at least tolerates us a bit more." Hermione said.
Back on the podium, Minerva spoke about the graduating students. Harry's ears picked up something familiar. McGonagall was speaking about the Golden Trio and everything the students got up to. She held her lions close to her heart, speaking fondly of them.
When it was time to hand out the diplomas, Minerva scrolled open a roll of parchment and said, "When your name it called, please come up to the stand to receive your diploma. We'll start with the Seventh Years."
Happy smiles and handshakes were exchanged, some shed tears while others looked relieved. Ginny's smile was the brightest of the lot when she got her diploma, beaming at her family and friends. Everyone could see her father's smile as he clapped the loudest. Then it was time for the Eight Years; students who came back to finish their education. Numerous students were called to the stand; Katie, Seamus, Neville and Luna were called, then a few more before it was Draco's turn.
"Draco Lucius Malfoy. Slytherin prefect, captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team and the team Seeker from 1992 until 1998. Graduating with honours." Minerva called out.
Students clapped, while Fred and George wolf whistled and hollered 'looking good' from the third row. Bill whacked George who was sitting closest of the two. The Headmistress handed Draco a scroll with a dark green ribbon around it.
Andy, who was sitting next to Lucius, leaned closer and said, "My heart is swelling with pride, seeing him up there. He's happy."
"It's all about making our children happy, every decision I made was to guarantee Draco's future."
The blonde looked extremely proud as he stepped away from the Headmistress, his scroll of parchment securely in his grip. A Ravenclaw named Kath Malone was next, followed by Randy Oropher and a boy called David. Then it was Harry's turn.
"Harry James Potter. Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and team Seeker from 1996 to 1998. Graduating with honours."
The green-eyed teen got perhaps the loudest applause and of course the Weasley twins couldn't pass an opportunity such as this, so they howled and whistled as the dark-haired teen walked up to Minerva.
Passing the boy his diploma, Minerva said, "You never seem to stop surprising, Harry."
"Graduating with honours. Really?"
"You've done outstandingly well, your N.E.W.T results and high marks speak for themselves."
As the hall broke out in applause once more, a girl's voice shouted out, "Marry me, Harry."
To which George hollered back, "A bit late for that."
Fred added. "Wrong gender."
Harry, mortified by the two redheads, took his seat as the hall was over taken by hushed whispers.
Minerva said, "Quiet down now. It isn't over yet."
Next it was Fred's turn, who didn't hold back. Bowing to the crowd and letting off a couple of small fireworks, the redhead entertained most of the occupants of the Great Hall. Snape was not amused, yet nothing seemed to amuse him.
Hermione was up next. Fred couldn't stop himself, as if Fred would want to stop himself, and kissed his wife. The girl was used to it and didn't bat an eye when Fred twirled her around before letting her take the stage. Hermione had more titles than most, seeing as she was one of Hogwarts brightest and smartest students.
Ron got his diploma as his family cheered for him. Five more students got theirs and as the Hall settled down once more, McGonagall said with a proud smile. "Ladies and Gentlemen. I present to you, the graduating class of 98'."
As all the teachers stood and started clapping, loud whoops of joy and excitement were roared by the students and even their parents. Andy's eyes were glassy from the moisture; seeing his nephew and the tight group of friends celebrating the end of one chapter in their lives gave the woman an elevated feeling. She glanced over at the elder Malfoy who didn't even bother to hide his emotions, it was an unusual sight to see the famous Malfoy mask crack and crumble. The witch knew that if not for the pregnancy hormones, the blonde would never have allowed anyone to see him look anything less that cold. When Harry came over and pulled Lucius into a kiss, the closest to them either chuckled or cooed at the adorable yet steaming scene in front of them. If more than a few girls happened to be disappointed, Harry didn't know or care.
Looking over to Draco, who was being snogged by Bill, Harry said, "I think they already started their celebration."
"No one seems to mind." Andy chuckled.
"I can't believe it's all over," Harry said with a more sober look, "I spent roughly eight years in this place. This wonderful place that is like a second home to me."
Lucius said, caressing Harry's cheek. "It will still be here when you leave, you will always have a chance to come back and visit."
"I know, I just... I wish I didn't have to wait for eleven years."
"We can always pay Severus a visit every now and then. I don't think the Headmistress will deny you anything."
Harry just clung the man and sighed, "It's supposed to be a happy event but it's also hard to let go."
"Would you like to go for a walk? Perhaps it will lift your mood."
"We could walk down to the lake? I think it will be a while before the commotion dies down."
Walking away from the castle, Harry could breathe again as the constricting feeling in his chest eased up. He slid his hand into the blonde's and said, "I'll miss Hogwarts, but I think I will mostly miss the whole experience. Sharing a dorm room with my friends, Quidditch practice before the sun is even up or even if it's pouring rain. I'll miss going to class and sharing meals with my housemates, I'll definitely miss Hermione's study groups in the library."
"I feel partly responsible for bringing an end to your adventures here in Hogwarts. You would have been here with the rest of your classmates had I
"Stop right there. You didn't do anything alone. As I recall, it was a very satisfying collaboration, we're equally accountable because I was the one who got you pregnant. I think neither of us really considered the possibility, not while we're otherwise occupied. I would have loved to come back and finish my final year in Hogwarts, but I love you more than I love this place. I would do it again if given the choice. The three of you are my top priority, now and forever." the teen said.
Lucius offered Harry a smile. "I hope you don't regret anything."
"No regrets." Harry said and brought their lips together, pouring his promise into the kiss.
(*) - My grandmother used to threaten my older brother with stripy trousers when he wouldn't stop misbehaving. The imprint from a spanking would look like striped pants on your arse. It never fails to crack me up.